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Splendour of Myself V (Mother_Daughter_Partner)

Zofia Kulik2007/2007

Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu

Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu
Toruń, Poland

The hieratic, frontal (presented above the knees) self-portrait of the artist in an ornamental dress, corresponds iconographically to both official portraits of Elizabeth I and images of Madonna. The artist is standing up straight, proudly, holding a sickle in her left hand, with her smaller self-portrait visible in three quarters beneath her right hand, where, with a roguish face, she is holding in her arms reduced figures of her mother Helena and long-term partner, Przemysław Kwiek. Her head is adorned with a crown made of photographs of stalks and a vertical form looking like an arrowhead or a metal finial of a banner shaft. Apart from the main photograph of Zofia Kulik’s face (taken by Przemysław’s sister, Urszula Kwiek), there are also fragments of photographs taken by the artist some time before: the mother’s photograph from 1993 and Kwiek’s from 2002. The artist’s dress looks as if it had some abstract pattern from a distance, but after a closer look, the complicated ornaments turn out to be photographs of dry thistle leaves and of a human figure. The latter is also present in another of Kulik’s important projects – The Archive of Gestures (1987–1991) constitutes about 700 photographs of male nudes (here: Zbigniew Libera, an artist presented in the collection of CoCA as well). On both sides of the artist’s face there are – on the left: photographs of a bird killed by the artist’s dog; on the right: a Latin cross formed with male nudes. Splendour of Myself V is a laborious (from the technical viewpoint), repeatedly exposed black and white photograph, made of 15 rectangular fields of photographic paper (5 vertically, 3 horizontally). The amount of time and labour sets the work apart from a photo-montage. The rule of manipulation governing the composition results in the fact that the same views are repeated several times, especially in the parts of a large ruff surrounding the neck and the bottom of the dress. The decorative and ornamental character of the work, underlining the strict discipline of the axial organisation of the whole, is characteristic of all of Kulik’s repeatedly exposed photographs which, together with the anachronic (in the times of Photoshop) technique, created a dialogue with the past, including the history of art. The whole work is therefore made with the help of the analogue method, and the minimal support of digital techniques remains a mystery of production. [A. Markowska]

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